GB Hockey chiefs will be hoping for a bumper audience over the next 10 days following the free-to-air move for the upcoming Olympic hockey qualifiers, which could herald a longer term partnership with the BBC.
BBC Sport will take the broadcast feed on all GB men and women matches for their digital platforms following a three-way collaboration with the FIH and the BBC – and will be a welcome addition to The Hockey Paper‘s coverage of the Paris 2024 qualifiers.
The broadcaster had been offered the final of England men’s EuroHockey against the Dutch last summer, but time ran out on a deal being inked.
But with those conversations, a free-to-air strategy has come into play for these qualifiers in Valencia and Muscat for the women and men respectively. (It starts on Saturday with GB women v Canada at 0830 GMT)
When it comes to hockey on TV, the issue has sparked some of our biggest traffic. Notably when the Olympics is aired.
Now it’s the turn for the hockey community to tune in and make a case to BBC Sport — which has come under the cosh in recent years over its dumbing down of sport on TV — that ‘general sports’ deserve a bigger platform. That there is an audience who watch the international game beyond the thousands who turn out on Saturdays for their clubs across the country
The BBC, GB Hockey confirmed, has a 50,000 threshold of viewers when it comes to determining which sports to cover, which is one reason why the national governing body has been eager to ask all and sundry to promote the tournaments across social media.
For the EuroHockey in 2019, the BBC had a 25,000 threshold TV audience, but that figure has now doubled.
With TNT Sports committing to broadcasting the ongoing FIH Pro League until the summer, there could be a hiatus on hockey after Paris 2024.
There has been audience success in the past, notably with the women’s game.
Women’s World League Hockey attracted 16,000 viewers in viewing figures back in 2017 on BT Sport, a respectable audience in the summer schedule.
Since 2018, the most viewed hockey event on BT Sport has been the peak audience of 122,000 for the England v Ireland Women’s World Cup match in July 2018, with an average of 62,000.
With that World Cup, then BT Sport broke its record for a non-Olympic event with 70% of licensees taking their coverage.
The most watched broadcast for hockey at the Tokyo Olympics on Eurosport received an average audience of 43.2k. Outside of Pro League, there has been little mainstream coverage, with last summer’s EuroHockey behind a paywall.
With a raft of games across BBC Sport’s channels and at a time of year when hockey players have yet to return to league, there is every reason to believe that an audience can be found this month.
“We all know the Olympic Qualifiers is a vital competition for the teams and for our community to be able to show their support and watch every moment of their journey is fantastic,” said GB Hockey CEO Nick Pink.
“I would like to encourage everyone to get the matches on and cheer on our teams every step of the way.”
All Great Britain’s matches, men’s and women’s, will be streamed live on the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app.
Matches will also be available to watch on catch up on the BBC iPlayer.